Two Philosophers with Complimentary and Contrasting Ideas

Catherine C – P. 5

Aristotle and John Stuart Mill state in their writings their own goal for man in his life and in the end they both want man to experience happiness. Mill explains the utilitarianism theory and his goal for man is for him to experience a majority of happiness in his life while decreasing displeasure. On the other hand, Aristotle’s goal for man in his life is to complete his function, which is living a life in accordance to reason, and this will bring man happiness in life. Happiness plays a major role in a man’s life because Aristotle states, in the Nichomachean Ethics, that most men agree that “live well” and “do well” are synonyms for the word “happy”. Hence, man thinks that happiness is an important part in life, and it is important to maintain happiness in one’s life. The Aristotelian View and the UtilitarianView posses similar ideas because they both want man to feel joy in his life, and this happiness arises when man use their unique ability: to reason; however, they have two different end goals in life and their views on required intelligence to achieve happiness differs.

Both Aristotle and Mill desire man to experience happiness in his life. Therefore, these two have intertwined beliefs and aims. Aristotle believes a man is happy if he completes his function, and he teaches that happiness is a way of life. The Utilitarian View also believes happiness plays a major role in one’s life and man should focus on decreasing displeasure in his life. These aspects are intertwined because if a man follows the Aristotelian View of living a life in accordance to reason, as a result he will meet the goal of the Utilitarianism View of living a happy life and decreasing displeasure. The product of the Aristotelian view produces happiness, which is the goal of the Utilitarian View. If one is living his life in accordance to reason then happiness will be the result of living that lifestyle. Also, both philosophers agree that no man enjoys pain, and Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics his definition of pain which is that “object of aversion to all beings; therefore its opposite is desirable for all”. In addition, both philosophers believe that happiness is a very important part in life. Aristotle even writes in the packet that “happiness lacks nothing; it is sufficient in itself”. Even though these two philosophers have different ideas, they are similar because both philosophers want man to live a life of happiness without any pain.

Aristotle and Mill maintain similar ideas about how man can be happy as long as he lives a life that uses his unique intellectual abilities on a daily basis. These intellectual talents were uniquely given to man and no other creature possesses these faculties. In the readings packet, Mill wrote that “no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool”. Aristotle also wrote a parallel statement in the readings packet that man would never want to “sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence”. These statements relate to Aristotle’s idea that there is a single difference between man and animal and this determines man’s function in life. This single difference is man’s ability to reason; for that reason, man’s function is to live a life in accordance to reason. Aristotle even thinks that because animals do not have the ability to reason, then they cannot experience happiness. Therefore, both philosophers believe that if man lives a life completing actions that are lower than his unique intellectual abilities, then he will not experience happiness in his life. Since all men desire happiness, Mill’s statement is confirmed that man always wants to use all of his distinctive intellectual abilities. For example, man’s ability to reason makes him unique from other beings on the planet. Since man is able to reason, this allows him to make decisions and follow the decisions he makes. As a result, he can make decisions that will allow him to experience joy in his life. Aristotle also explains that the life that the gods live is completely blessed, and if man lives a life similar to the gods, and then he is blessed. In order for man to live a blessed life, then he must live a life using his highest intellectual abilities similar to the gods. Thus, in order for man to experience happiness, which is Aristotle and Mill’s goal for man, man must live a life using reason in order to experience happiness.

The Utilitarian View focuses solely on man decreasing pain in his life while the Aristotelian View wants man to live a life in accordance to reason. Aristotle wrote in the reading packet that bad actions have “no moderation excess or deficiency”. To him, a bad action is more than whether or not it causes happiness or unhappiness. In Mill’s writings, he only focuses on man performing actions that make him joyous while Aristotle focuses on man living a life in accordance to reason and then happiness will be a product of that lifestyle. Mill based much of his writings on man decreasing pain in his life. Aristotle thinks that the good life is when man completes his function, which is living a life in accordance to reason. The two philosophers disagree on whether or not every action that produces pleasure is good. Aristotle states in the reading packet that pleasure is connected with human nature. He quoted Plato in the reading packet and believes Plato is correct when Plato states that “pleasure itself cannot be the good”. Aristotle does not think that attempting to not partake in actions that produce displeasure will allow a man to be overall happier in life. He states in the reading packet that “the exercise of reason is the best and pleasantest for man – and therefore the happiest”. One must live a life in accordance to reason, and then happiness will be the result. However, the standard for utilitarianism is different. Mill defines utility, which is also known as the Greatest Happiness Principle, as actions are praised if they produce happiness, and actions are criticized if they produce unhappiness. Mill stated the overall main goal of the Utilitarian View in the reading packet which is to be “exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments”. Both philosophies want man to experience overall happiness in their lives; although, their ways of obtaining joy in life are different.

For the most part, Mill and Aristotle have different views on what level of intellectual intelligence man needs in order to meet their goal for man in life. However, there are some similarities between the two men’s views. Aristotle believes that man does not need a certain intellectual level in order to complete Aristotle’s goal for man: to live a life in accordance to reason. At all times, according to Aristotle, man is capable to complete his function no matter his level of intelligence as long as he is living his life in accordance to reason. Therefore, Aristotle thinks common sense is a requirement to live a life of happiness. As long as man lives a life in accordance to reason, then he will experience happiness. That being said, man is born with enough intelligence to live a life of reason but they must use this intelligence in order to live a life of reason. Mill believes that “men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes”. Once their intelligence decreases, then these men can only enjoy “inferior pleasures”. They do not enjoy these inferior pleasures but these inferior pleasures are the only ones they are capable of enjoying and have access too. Also, Mill states that people do not enjoy life if they are selfish or they refuse to cultivate their mind. Thus, if one only focuses on himself or does not want to increase his intellectual levels then he will not find happiness in his life. However, Aristotle does agree with Mill in some ways when he states in the reading packet that “time passes more pleasantly with those who possess, than with those who are seeking knowledge”. One can conclude that a man does not need to be brilliant in order to experience happiness in his life; rather good reasoning is necessary in order to experience joy. Man must have a balance of astuteness and rational.

These two philosophers have similar but different views on how man should live his life, but their goals lead to one final goal for man: to live a life of happiness. Both Mill and Aristotle want man to experience more happiness than displeasure in their lives and they believe that man must use his intellectual talents to experience happiness. However, the Utilitarian view mainly focuses on decreasing displeasure in one’s life while the Aristotelian view wants man to live a life in accordance to reason which will produce happiness. Also, their views on intellectual talents needed for one to experience joy are different. Even though the two views have a few variations, in the end they both views become parallel because they both want man to experience more joy in his life rather than disappointment. These outlooks represent the important role happiness plays in man’s nature because both philosophers think that all men desire happiness. They believe that joy should be the main goal for man in his life even though they both have different thoughts on how man should go about obtaining happiness in their lives.

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